Trending News: Indentured Servitude vs. Enslavement

Today, Gayle King has unintentionally shed light on an important topic in US history: the distinction between indentured servitude and enslavement. In an interview captured in the photo above, King corrected Virginia Governor Ralph Northam who claimed that in 1619 the first Africans arrived in Virginia as indentured servants. The interview was part of his effort to challenge his most recent stream of bad press after his medical school yearbook revealed him in blackface. The disagreement had historians, race studies scholars, and commentators flocking to Twitter to debate.

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In addition to watching the PBS episode Dr. Ana Lucia Araujo mentions above, here are some podcast episodes that you can assign to your students on the subject. We recommend assigning either (or, better yet, both simultaneously) in order to shed light on the similarities and important distinctions between indentured servitude and enslavement as well as their legacies on our understandings of race in America today.

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Episode: The Sentence

Series: Uncivil

Release Date: 12/13/2017
Producers: Chris Neary, Chiquita Paschal, and Saidu Tejan Thomas, Kimmie Regler

Episode Link: https://www.gimletmedia.com/uncivil/the-sentence

Tags: History, Race, Enslavement, Law, Indentured Servitude, Colonization, South, Early America, Labor, Slavery, African American history

TRANSCRIPT FTW: https://www.gimletmedia.com/uncivil/the-sentence

Description:

Conversational/Academic The episode focuses on an indentured servant named John Punch who attempted to flee a tobacco farm with two other indentured servants in the Virginia colony in 1640. The episode unravels the impact of the conviction once all three were caught – while the two white men were sentenced to contract work for a period of time, Punch as an African American was sentenced to a lifetime of enslavement.

Notes: KL: This episode is a tightly-edited enthralling story that captivates my students. It also goes a long way to highlight the important distinctions between indentured servitude and enslavement that many of my students do not quickly grasp. The episode also sheds light on the legacies of this important legal decision for people like Kelly Stern. You can see a student testimony on this podcast episode in the testimonies section. Read more about class exercises, discussion questions, and additional sources you can assign with this podcast on our website here: https://teachingwithpodcasts.com/2019/02/11/uncivil-the-sentence/

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Episode 33: Made in America (Seeing White, Part 3)

Series: Scene on Radio

Release Date: 12/13/2017
Host: John Biewen with commentary from Chenjerai Kumanyika, Produced by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

Episode Link: https://www.gimletmedia.com/uncivil/the-sentence

Tags: History, Race, Enslavement, Law, Indentured Servitude, Colonization, South, Early America, Labor, Slavery, African American history, Critical Race Theory

TRANSCRIPT: http://www.sceneonradio.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/SeeingWhite_Part3Transcript.pdf

Description:

Conversational/Academic The episode, as part of the show’s series Seeing White on race in America, focuses on the relationship between race, labor, and capitalism in American colonies.  The episode argues that certain laws and structure – “innovations” – became part of the foundation in the construction of whiteness as we understand it today.

Notes: Kera Lovell: This episode would be helpful for advanced undergraduates because it pairs interviews with famous historians like Nell Painter and Ibram Kendi (whose writings students could read) in the first half of the episode with a personal conversation unpacking their interviews in the second half.  The episode’s content is fantastic, however the episode’s density might not be effective for the beginning of a semester in a first-year US history course — unless you couple it with coaching. Guide your students through this. It is significant and worthwhile in telling the history of white supremacy in America.

Another alternative if you don’t have time to discuss in class could be to assign it as a double podcast feature along with Uncivil’s “The Sentence” With a focus on John Punch (in 1640), that episode can help set in motion a lot of questions about race in the century that follows that make this episode of Scene on Radio successful. Read more about class exercises, discussion questions, and additional sources you can assign with this podcast on our website here: https://teachingwithpodcasts.com/2019/02/11/scene-on-radio-made-in-america-seeing-white-part-3/

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